Program to Promote Biobased Products Draws Praise From Iowans

Farm groups in Iowa and elsewhere welcomed the recent announcement by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that USDA has published a draft rule in the Federal Register regarding USDA's proposed label for identifying biobased products.

The drafting of rules for the voluntary label is viewed as a step toward increasing the awareness of and demand for biobased products by government agencies as well as businesses and consumers who are dedicated to using green products.

"I'm pleased to see the USDA took this important step in announcing the BioPreferred labeling rule," says Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chair of the U.S. Senate Ag Committee. "More and more consumers see the benefits of using biobased products and this label will make it much easier for people to identify the items they are looking for. These products are truly a win-win. They conserve our natural resources and at the same time help create jobs and grow our economy. Much like biofuels, biobased products will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and energy supplies."

Now is time to send in your comment on proposed rule

The draft rule will be in the Federal Register and open to public comment for 60-days, after which USDA will review the comments and work with the Office of Management and Budget to finalize the rule. Once approved, the label will be used by manufacturers and others to designate and market biobased products.

The BioPreferred Label initiative is part of USDA's BioPreferred program and was created in the 2002 Farm Bill, along with a federal procurement program for biobased products. Harkin worked to enhance this rule in the 2008 Farm Bill approved by Congress last year.

Additionally, the law includes a provision which states that all government agencies must purchase biobased products with considerations made for cost, performance and availability. Biobased products are those products made wholly or significantly from biobased materials, like resins made from corn or soybeans. The label is intended to help educate federal procurement officials and the public about which goods are primarily composed of biobased ingredients, from water bottles to construction materials.Wallaces Farmer